Fifteen years after their privatization by the Villepin government, the subject of highways continues to be debated in France
Seven months before the presidential election, an old sea serpent resurfaces: from Marine Le Pen to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, several candidates plead for the “nationalization” of the motorway companies, a proposal described as “populist” and “demagogic” by the government.
For once, the existing situation does not seem to find favor in the eyes of anyone, with however nuances depending on the political values and tactical positions of each.
The toll as a symbol of a private tax
First, there is the question of the toll, which is surely the most concrete element and which had also given rise to spectacular operations during the Yellow Vests movement. Thus, Jean-Luc Mélenchon wishes “to put an end to the organized theft that constitutes tolls” suggesting that he is purely and simply planning the end.
Marine Le Pen, more cautious, still believes that such a “nationalization” would reduce the price of tolls by 10 to 15% and deliver an additional 1.5 billion euros per year to the state budget. .
It remains however rather vague on the destination which it would assign to such a recipe, speaking of “policies of regional planning” unlike an Arnaud Montebourg, who wants to redirect the revenues towards ecological investments.
All therefore have in common to place this measure under the sign of the reconquest of a national asset, the privatization of which was decided in 2006 by the government of Dominique de Villepin to release funds and pay off debt. However, it would be wrong to think that it is only a question of calling into question an event of fifteen years ago: this measure is part of the wider debate: nationalizations vs privatizations, the last avatar of which had resurfaced when the government announced that it wanted to privatize Aéroports de Paris, La Française des Jeux, among other national companies.
Only the Covid-19 was right about this project, which even the supporters of a referendum of shared initiative did not seem able to counter.
A “demagogic” proposal for the government
The Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari reacted to this proposal on Franceinfo, pleading for a pragmatic approach to the issue: “Motorway concessions […] expire in ten years. The biggest in 2031 and the majority in 2036. […] If we nationalize now, by contract law, by the rule of law, we should compensate the motorway companies to the tune of 45 to 50 billion “, supported in this sense by his colleague in the government Bruno Le Maire:” So that if we wait ten or fifteen years, […] you can get these highways for zero euros. “
The detractors of the minister, however, unearthed on social networks, the old positions of Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, then a simple deputy of the majority, and who advocated in 2019 … the renationalization of highways!
A subject which therefore risks continuing to debate!
Sudouest.fr with AFP